Monday, August 20, 2007

Rain and Woodpeckers

Blue-winged Warbler

It was a very wet and rainy weekend and water leaked into our basement for the first time in four years of owning our home. And just a few weeks ago the lawn was dormant and brown on account of the drought. We're fortunate, though, as people in other parts of Wisconsin got it far worse – three counties have been declared a state of emergency and there were even four deaths in Minnesota from the flooding. The rain started Saturday morning and has only just relented in the past hour or so. Before the rain, I was able to get out birding early Saturday and found nearly a dozen warbler species at Pheasant Branch Conservancy. My favorites were Golden-winged Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Blackburnain Warbler and Magnolia Warbler. So, most of the weekend was spent doing household chores, cleaning and some shopping. I picked up Scott Weidensaul's new book "Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding." It may be a while before I have a chance to comment or review it because I'd rather be birding than read about it, and fall migrants are pouring in.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

A few days ago we received a flier in the mail from a local church, which I assume was sent to the entire village of Waunakee. Printed on the flier was the following question: “Does the evolutionary process work for the woodpecker? Why not?” The flier was essentially an invitation to listen to a speaker/presentation, organized by the church, discrediting evolutionary theory. I don't want to disgress too much from the topic of birding, but this is related because it concerns bird anatomy and still falls under this blog's "information" banner. It's troubling when evolution is presented as an either/or fallacy, and then to use birds for this...such sacrilege! My fellow citizens of Waunakee, the fact is the woodpecker's tongue is not anchored in the nostril. Like all other birds, it's anchored in the lower mandible. For some woodpeckers (not all) the epibranchial segment of the hyoid apparatus is extremely long, wrapping around the skull, and aids woodpeckers in extending their tongues long distances to spear food items. It is simply an elongation of the same basic anatomy found in all birds.

All images © 2007 Mike McDowell

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